Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains, Migros and Coop, both recently announced plans to start charging for disposable plastic carry bags.
From the 1 November 2016, Migros will charge customers 5 cents a bag. In Migros’ own magazine, Christine Wiederkehr-Luther, director of the Environnement at Migros, says in 2013 the measure was successfully introduced in the canton of Vaud, which has seen the use of these bag fall by 90%. The Geneva branch of Migros, which decided in 2008 to ban the bags entirely, no longer makes them available at checkout.
Migros says its new bags will be made from recycled material, and any margin left after costs will be given to organisations working to protect the environment. When asked why the new bags wouldn’t be biodegradable, Wiederkehr-Luther pointed out that biodegradable bags are made from food products, such as rape seed oil, so it would be questionable to use this to make disposable bags when people in some parts of the world are dying from hunger.
In a press release, the supermarket chain Coop also said it will charge 5 cents per bag from 24 October 2016. Coop aims to cut the number of bags handed out by 80%. Its bags will also be made from recycled material.
Last Thursday, Switzerland’s government shelved a project to outlaw disposable plastic bags, after food retailers agreed to start charging for them by the end of 2018. In any case the government’s plan for an outright ban had run into legal hurdles.
The small clear plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables will remain.
Almost one year ago, the UK government introduced a 5 pence charge for these bags at large shops, claiming that major UK supermarkets gave out over 7.4 billion bags in 2013.
The UK government expects demand for these bags to drop by as much as 80%.